Maria Fontanazza

Bring on 2024

By Maria Fontanazza

With just about two weeks remaining in 2023, we’ve been saying “where did the year go?” and “this year flew by!” for the last 30 days (well, probably even longer). It’s the time of year when we reflect on the past 12 months and take our best shot at predicting the next 12. There were so many enthusiastic responses to this year’s Agency Roundtable that we could not include all of them in the print edition. In addition to the commentary you’ll find in the Roundtable – from important issues in 2024 to representation in health care to AI (of course) to influencers, and much more – here are additional themes we heard from both agency folks as well as other industry subject matter experts about the year ahead.

Patient centricity and AI
“In 2024, patient centricity — driven by empowered patients, accelerated personalized therapies, and regulatory mandates — will become a focus for lifesciences organizations challenging the status quo. Digital transformation powered by data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning will aid this shift, creating a dynamic flow of data and information to enable patients — and their caregivers — to make informed decisions about their care,” says Beena Wood, senior VP of product management, safety, and medical at ArisGlobal. “Currently, only 45 percent of healthcare practitioners feel biopharma companies embody a high level of patient centricity. Organizations that establish the relationship between a people-first strategy and measurable business impact will achieve their patient-centric goals. That mission must include looking beyond medicine and embracing patients’ entire healthcare experience.” Industry has a lot to say about the role and potential of AI, some of which you’ll find in “Artificial intelligence for the foreseeable future”, and even more published as online extras this month.

Maintaining privacy
“Patients and HCPs will deprioritize the protection of their personal and private information. I see younger generations prioritizing solutions, convenience, and novelty over their own privacy,” says Todd Greene, senior VP of omnichannel marketing at Brick City Greenhouse. “In a recent focus group, when posed with the concept of their devices listening to and tracking them, I heard a patient claim ‘they have nothing to hide.’ In a recent physician interview at a customer experience conference, one physician replied that he was ‘more worried about being overloaded’ by communications than he was about technology’s use of his personal information.” He added that a recent Cisco survey on privacy found that only half of regular Generative AI users say they are refraining from entering personal or confidential information into Gen AI applications. “Though numerous studies show consumers stating that they are concerned about privacy, their actions tell a different story. Researchers refer to this as the Privacy Paradox, and as technology becomes more valuable, there is a real chance that a significant portion of consumers will gladly opt in to share their highly personal health information — especially if they will receive improved medicines, treatments, and lifestyle in return.” Daniel Winter, VP of product strategy at CMI Media Group points out that there needs to be a balance between how industry uses new technology and access to data, which will require protecting the privacy of healthcare professionals and patients, with maintaining and growing the business in a sustainable way.

Clinical trial diversity
“Last year, the industry re-committed to improve diversity, equity, and representation in clinical trials. Thanks to new regulatory legislation issued by the FDA that requires sponsors of certain clinical trials to submit diversity action plans, report demographic data for participants, and actively recruit from underrepresented populations, top pharmaceutical companies are now prioritizing DE&I across their trial portfolios. For instance, in March 2023 Bristol Myers Squibb announced a multimillion dollar investment in its global inclusion and diversity goals, including a focus on increasing clinical trial diversity. The company claims that nearly 60 percent of its clinical trial sites are now located in racially and ethnically diverse areas of the country,” says Rachel Rangel, clinical trial specialist at Curavit Clinical Research. “While the industry is moving in the right direction, racial and ethnic minorities still only account for 2–16 percent of clinical trial participants, while they comprise 39 percent of the U.S. population. One of the biggest obstacles is patient recruitment and retention from historically underrepresented populations. That’s why sponsors like MedRhythms are starting to collaborate with partners that specialize in diverse patient recruitment to carefully plan and execute new strategies that reduce some of the traditional barriers to study participation and are more conducive to reaching a broader demographic. Actionable solutions that will flourish in 2024 include: modern research models, such as decentralized clinical trials that use virtual sites to meet participants where they are; partnerships with community organizations, leaders and medical providers; diverse research teams who can better understand participants from these communities; real-time monitoring to expeditiously rectify any gaps in representation early; and, a focus on cultural linguistic barriers by translating study materials into different languages, using culturally appropriate messaging, and providing interpretation services as needed.” Chris Truelove writes more about clinical trial diversity in “Overcoming the barriers”.

Capital investment pressures
Challenging economic conditions are putting significant pressure on every industry, with healthcare marketing being no exception. “We’ve seen a lot of companies tighten spending as they try to look into their crystal ball and see what’s ahead. We’ve seen a record level of corporate reorganizing and in-year budget shifting with larger pharmaceutical companies,” says Angela Tenuta, president of EVERSANA INTOUCH. “We’ve seen a lot of stalled funding with biotech’s. Many brands are prioritizing ‘must-have’ tactics and foregoing longer-term innovations.”

Preston Taylor, Greater Than One’s CFO, believes that the cost of capital will remain high next year, until inflation comes down, leading to more pressure on investments that rely on debt or equity financing. “Additionally, 2024 is an election year. And capital providers will inherently be cautious in how they allocate funds to businesses in [second half 2024] due to the uncertainty surrounding the political landscape,” he says. Read more about industry thoughts about healthcare in the election year.

As we edge closer to 2024 it is clear that despite the challenges upon us, the industry of healthcare marketers and communicators remain excited and hopeful about the future and their role in positively impacting patient lives.

 

Maria Fontanazza, Med Ad News

Maria Fontanazza is the director of content, Med Ad News and PharmaLive.com.